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Bernie Ecclestone is renowned for being frank, and despite turning 80 last week it doesn't look like this will let up. Writing in the Financial Times, Pitpass' business editor Chris Sylt reveals that at his recent lunch with Ecclestone the F1 boss had a few choice words to say about Hispania, Lotus and Virgin Racing. "We need to get rid of a few of those cripples," he says adding "they do nothing for us. They are an embarrassment."
It sounds harsh but it may also be fair since none of the new teams has scored a point yet and they occupy the bottom three places in the standings. Ecclestone adds that "Lotus is the only team that looks good and would be good to keep."
He offers a simple solution to improve the performance of Virgin Racing, which lies last in the standings. "They haven't got any money. Richard (Branson) should put some money in there shouldn't he? He could do what Dietrich Mateschitz has done and put some money in." F1's industry monitor Formula Money estimates that Virgin is investing $23m in its team annually compared to the $160m which Red Bull Racing received from its parent this year so it is easy to see what is driving Ecclestone's comment.
He told Sylt that a new team run by Jacques Villeneuve isn't likely to get off the ground and, in light of the poor performance of the new teams which joined this year, it is perhaps for the best.
With just two races remaining in 2010 Ecclestone says he would like to see Mark Webber or Sebastian Vettel win the championship but, ever the businessman, his driving force is financial. "We would have five world champions next year," he says with his eye on the ratings and revenue boost it would bring to F1. This is also the motivation behind his idea of awarding medals to winning drivers.
"With the medals you could get to the last race with three guys on gold and then you've got the silver and bronze so it is completely open," says Ecclestone. However, he admits that he didn't give the idea the best chance. "I didn't campaign it properly because I don't care," he says.
Another change to F1 which doesn't look like it will see the light of day soon is the introduction of high definition broadcasts. Ecclestone says he is "not sure" if they will be available next year, as has been speculated, and he says that if they are introduced, it will be "50% high definition and 50% standard from the onboard cameras because you can't put HD in the cars." There is a pretty simple reason for this which is that HD cameras are larger than standard devices and these already have to be shrunk to fit into F1 cars.
Ecclestone's caution is understandable. After all, he pioneered a multi-channel digital TV feed of F1 back in the 1990s but this was closed after weak public interest.
Another decision which Ecclestone won't be repeating is trying to take F1 to a stock market flotation. "There's no way I would sit in front of a load of shareholders. It wouldn't float under me," he says. Despite his age, Ecclestone has not groomed a successor and simply says that when he is gone "I don't think F1 could be carried on in the same way as it has." One person who looks unlikely to take over from him is former Renault team boss Flavio Briatore since Ecclestone says that there is "no truth" to the rumours that he will become involved with F1's management.
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